FINALISTS NAMED IN OUTSTANDING YOUNG FARM FAMILY CONTEST
MONTGOMERY, Feb. 27 -- Exceptional young agriculturalists from Cullman, Dallas, DeKalb, Houston and Montgomery counties were named finalists in Alabama's Outstanding Young Farm Family contest during the closing session of the Alabama Farmers Federation's Young Farmers Leadership Conference Saturday night in Montgomery.
|Young Farmers Committee Chairman Jeff Maze, back row right, congratulates the Outstanding Young Farm Family commodity division winners and finalists. Shown here are, from left, back row, Josh Turner, Mike Dole, Evelyn Dole, Jeremy Wilson, Jeff Whitaker, Matthew Smith, Colby Smith, Davy Wright, Colby Willoughby, Garrett Henry, Justin Hill and Maze; front row, Katie Sue Dole, Teresa Dole, Stephanie Wilson, Kinsley Wilson, Randi Whitaker, Micheal Smith, Stacey Smith, Noah Wright, Heather Wright, Abby Wright, Jaclyn Willoughby, Emily Henry, Paige Henry, Julie Calvert and James Calvert.|
Six finalists were recognized from among 10 commodity division winners. The finalists received a year's free membership in the Alabama Farm Analysis Association and will go on to compete this summer for the title of overall Outstanding Young Farm Family for 2010. All commodity division winners received $200 each and were invited to serve as ex-officio members of the Federation's state committee for their respective commodities.
The 10 commodity division winners are Garrett and Emily Henry of Montgomery County, beef division; Matthew and Stacey Smith of Calhoun County, cotton division; Justin Hill of Calhoun County, equine division; Davy and Heather Wright of Dallas County, greenhouse, nursery and sod division; Jeff and Randi Whitaker of DeKalb County, hay and forage division; Jeremy and Julie Calvert of Cullman County, horticulture division; Mike and Teresa Dole of St. Clair County, meat goat and sheep division; Colby Willoughby of Houston County, peanut division; Josh and Jessica Turner of DeKalb County, poultry division; and Jeremy and Stephanie Wilson of Talladega County, soybean division.
The six finalists are the Calverts, Wrights, Whitakers, Turners, Henrys and Willoughby. One of these farm families will be named the overall winner at the Federation's annual meeting in December. Prizes include a year's use of a new vehicle from the Federation, a John Deere Gator from Alabama Farm Credit and Alabama Ag Credit (formerly Federal Land Bank), a personal computing package from ValCom/CSS Wireless and $500 from Dodge. The state winner will go on to represent Alabama at the American Farm Bureau Federation's 2011 annual meeting in Atlanta.
State Young Farmers Chairman Jeff Maze of Blount County called this year's commodity winners and finalists "the cream of the crop."
"With farmers making up less than 2 percent of the population, it's encouraging to see such a good turnout at this conference," Maze said. "It goes to show that there are still young farmers out there who are working to keep our food prices low, our food supply safe and who are taking care of their animals. The Outstanding Young Farm Family contest spotlights farmers who are doing a good job, and I think we have an excellent group of finalists. I would hate to be in the judges' shoes."
About 300 young farmers from throughout the state attended the conference, which featured speakers and workshops on topics ranging from precision agriculture to human resource management.
"Every workshop is designed to help us become better leaders on our farms," Maze said. "We try to offer programs where young farmers can learn things they can take back to their farm and hopefully make it more successful so agriculture can continue to grow strong throughout the entire state."
In addition to the seminars and workshops, the young farmers say sharing ideas with their peers is one of the greatest benefits of the conference. The participants' children also got a chance to spend time with other farm kids Saturday afternoon as they competed in a pedal tractor pull.
Meanwhile, last year's Outstanding Young Farm Family, Gaylan and Angie Shelly of Escambia County, got a pleasant surprise when Alabama's John Deere dealers announced they would give the family six month's free use of a new John Deere 7000-series tractor. The Shellys received a prize package in December comparable to the one planned for this year's winner. In January, they represented the state at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in Seattle.
The Shellys shared their experience as the state winner during one of the conference workshops. Other speakers included Federation President Jerry A. Newby, Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan and national Young Farmers and Ranchers Chairman Will Gilmer of Lamar County. Throughout the conference, the young farmers conducted a silent auction, which raised more than $3,200 for the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation. Auction items were donated by county Young Farmers groups as well as businesses and individuals.